Twitter best practices


Can you make money from your Twitter stream? Mack Collier just did it.

Very quietly, a significant milestone occurred last Sunday night.  Blogger and consultant Mack Collier monetized a Twitter conversation.  That’s right.  Mack made money from other people’s tweets on a free and public platform.  I think this is one of the most clever and interesting social media stories of the year and Mack agreed to tell us about it in this interview.

Mack, I noticed on your well-known #blogchat that you had a sponsor for the first time.  What an achievement for you! How did it come about?

A couple of months ago I was thinking that there is SO much that I would love to do to help grow the #Blogchat community.  For example, I would love to start a blog devoted to #Blogchat, and I have transcripts from over 40 previous #Blogchats that I would love to share with everyone.  But I just don’t have time to do these things as I am trying to grow my own consulting business at the same time.

That’s when I started toying with the idea of bringing on sponsors.  Because if I could start getting some money coming in from sponsors, then I could justify spending more time and money on growing the #Blogchat community.

You noted that most of the feedback has been positive so far. How do you intend to salt in other sponsors in the future

Honestly, there may never be another sponsored #Blogchat.  The main reason why is because I am going to be extremely picky about the sponsored topics, and making sure that potential sponsors can speak to those topics. For the first sponsored #Blogchat last Sunday with Grant from Headway, it made perfect sense.  Picking a blog theme/template is a topic that #Blogchatters have asked about before, and Grant could speak to it better than I could.  Plus it was a great chance for him to get exposure to hundreds of potential customers.

So it was a win-win for everyone.  #Blogchatters get an expert covering a topic they were interested in, and the sponsor gets exposure and access to hundreds of potential customers.

But at the end of the day, I want sponsored #Blogchats to be as close to a ‘regular’ #Blogchat as possible.  If someone can join a sponsored #Blogchat in the middle and recognize it as being sponsored, then I have done something wrong.

Obviously the sponsor was attracted to #Blogchat because of the high number of targeted clients you attract each week. I’m amazed at how quickly this little property has taken off. What’s been the secret?

I don’t know if there is one “secret.”  Two things I have done that have really helped #Blogchat:

1 – I’ve encouraged EVERYONE to join.  I’ve always been of the mindset that the more participants in a conversation, the better.  And that might sound like it could be confusing, but what happens with #Blogchat is that everyone comes in under a certain topic, but as the #Blogchat progresses, this small cluster of people will start talking about this particular aspect of the larger topic, and this small cluster will talk about a slightly different take on the same topic.

I view it as a large coffeehouse where everyone is talking about the same topic, but each table is having a slightly different take on the larger topic.  So you mingle and find the conversation that’s right for you, and join in!

And I am relentless about welcoming new people to #Blogchat.  I want people to feel welcome joining and understand that there are NO experts allowed, we are all coming to learn from each other.  People respect and appreciate that, I think.

2 – I give #Blogchatters as much say into the topics as I can.  For example, one of the most popular #Blogchats are the monthly OPEN MIC chats that happen the last Sunday of every month.  This started as a complete accident.  One Sunday nite I couldn’t join #Blogchat, and I really didn’t want to cancel it because I didn’t want to disappoint everyone.  So my only option was to make it open mic, meaning everyone that joined #Blogchat picked whatever topic they wanted to talk about.

I honestly thought it would be a complete disaster, but it ended up going pretty well.  What I loved was that some of the regulars took it upon themselves to ‘police’ the group and let them know what the deal was for that #Blogchat.  The session was so popular that I asked everyone if they’d like to do an OPEN MIC #Blogchat every month and they overwhelmingly said they would, so we added it.

How long has it taken to bring #Blogchat to this point?  Do you have other ideas on how to further develop and promote #Blogchat as a brand?

The first #Blogchat was March 22, 2009.  Here’s the recap post I did the next day.

As for ideas, as I mentioned above, I’d love to get a #Blogchat blog started, and have that be more a space for the #Blogchat regulars to post, more than me.  And I really want to get these transcripts up and let others have access to them, and I’d also like to make an ebook or two with the best insights from some of our amazing co-hosts, and give that away to participants.

Personally I find it difficult to follow a Twitter chat because of the multiple, concurrent conversation streams. What advice would you give people to participate effectively in Twitter chats, especially as your audience grows?

Yeah that’s the one thing about #Blogchat that I hear the most “complaints” about.  It just moves too damn fast for a lot of people to keep up with.

Personally, I use TweetChat,com to keep up with #Blogchat.  One neat feature of Tweetchat is that you can “”eature’ tweets from a user, which means Tweetchat will add a colored band around their tweets which makes it very easy to see them as the flood of tweets passes by.

Another good idea, especially if the chat has a co-host, is to follow in Tweetdeck, and create one columns for all #Blogchat tweets, then another for the co-hosts’ tweets, and probably another for the host’s tweets.  I know many on #Blogchat use TweetGrid as well.

Thanks for relating this story of your success, Mack. How can people find you on the web?

You can find me at my site – http://www.mackcollier.com or on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/mackcollier.

And I’d like to invite all your readers to check out #Blogchat, it happens every Sunday nite starting at 8pm Central.  Thanks Mark!

Is your company creating a social media ghost town?

This week we continue to put {grow} in the hands of the community by featuring Nashville marketer Laura Click and her ideas about why companies abandon their social efforts:

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Mark for lunch at popular Nashville spot called Urban Flats.  At the end of our meal, we were impressed to receive a card promoting the restaurant’s Twitter and Facebook profiles with our checks. Certainly, this was a great way to invite customers to connect with the restaurant online.

Recently, I visited Urban Flats again and received the same social media promo card. I decided to tweet about the great meal I had there with a friend. As a social media enthusiast, I was hoping to hear back from the restaurant. But, instead of a tweet, I heard crickets chirping.

A couple of days later, I checked out the restaurant’s twitter page and found they hadn’t updated it in months. What a shame. It’s like sending out invitations to a party at your house, but you’re not home when people show up.

The Urban Flats Twitter page is a prime example of a social media ghost town, and I’m quite confident this isn’t the only of its kind on the web. In fact, I think this is scenario is becoming more common as statistics show that only 21 percent of Twitter users are active on the site.

So, why do people let their Twitter profile, blog or Facebook page become a social media ghost town? Here some common reasons:

  • Lack of time. While social media may indeed be “free”, people rarely take into account the investment of time needed to tend to it. Although you don’t need to spend hours a day on social media sites, it’s important to carve out some time to get anything out of it. When people don’t take the time, the site falters.

 

  • Lack of content ideas. On many ghost town sites, you can practically smell the desperation as the posts begin to dwindle. “We have a patio!” or “We have great food!” It’s clear that many people just don’t know what to say, so they quit trying. Let’s use Urban Flats as an example – what could they share with their customers? Here are some ideas:
  1. Ask customers about their favorite flatbread or wine.
  2. Thank customers who tweet about the restaurant or check in via Foursquare or Gowalla.
  3. Create a recipe contest – the winner gets to name the flat bread and gets a free meal to go with it.
  4. Retweet posts from the shops nearby.
  5. Share articles about healthy eating, events in Nashville or urban renewal (something Urban Flats promotes).
  6. Search for people looking for restaurant suggestions in Nashville and suggest Urban Flats.
  7. Send menu updates, offer specials and promote events.
  8. Post photos of your staff members or share behind the scenes look at making the flatbreads.

 

  • Lack of success. Some people believe that merely having a social media presence will cause piles of money to show up on your doorstep. Clearly, this is not the case. While there may be a number of factors that contribute to an unsuccessful social media effort, businesses that don’t see immediate results tend to give up.
  • Lack of comfort. Believe it or not, social media doesn’t come naturally to everyone. If someone isn’t comfortable using social media or if it doesn’t match their personality, it shows. And, they often quit as a result.

A ghost town is a depressing place full of abandoned buildings, broken glass and tumbleweed. Don’t let your blog or profile become one. If you do, perhaps it’s time to consider if no social media presence is better than a ghost town.

Why do you think people abandon their social media efforts? Should they close down their blog or profiles if they quit updating it?

Laura Click is founder and chief innovator at Blue Kite Marketing, a consulting group dedicated to helping small businesses grow. You can learn more about Laura by checking out her blog at www.lauraclick.com.

Social Media Overload — Thoughts on Hitting the Wall.

Sometimes it feels like my social media presence is about to fall off a cliff.

Over the past months I’ve shared my journey as I’ve slowly figured things out. How to save time blogging. Build a community. Little tips I’ve learned through trial and error.

But I’ve come to a place that is uncomfortable and frankly, I don’t see a way out. To describe my experience at this point, I’d have to use the word “stressed.”

I can’t keep up with Twitter

… at least not in the same way that I always have … in a way that I have enjoyed and advocated. I am now up to nearly 15,000 followers. And many of them are very active, very engaging followers, too.

For me, the most fun thing about Twitter was engaging with a new follower: seeing where they’re from, what they say about themselves, clicking on their link, assessing if we had anything in common, and imagining ways we could connect — or not. For reasons I can’t totally explain, I’m now getting more than 1,000 new followers each month. I simply don’t have the time to thoughtfully assess and connect with new followers like I used to.

Similarly, the timely, personal engagement I value so much is difficult on this scale … and it’s only going to get worse. The benefits I’ve received from engaging and connecting on Twitter are literally incalculable. I don’t want that to go away.

Keeping the blog going at a high level of quality and engagement/comments  while maintaining a demanding work schedule has sometimes meant 17 hour workdays. My wife is starting to notice.

I used to take pride in closely following every blog (that I knew of) from the {grow} community.  Our readership is doubling every few months.  I can’t keep up with that like I used to either.

A year or so ago I asked a “celebrity” blogger how he handled it all — Blog community, 80,000 Twitter followers, and all the trimmings –  and he said, it’s like being a rockstar on a stage. There might be 20,000 people who want to engage with you but you can only slap the hands of the people who have made it to the front row.

I hated that description but am now starting to see some truth in it.

There have been some half-hearted discussions among the Twitterati with large tribes about dropping their accounts and starting over. That just sounds like a dumb idea.

First, it is incredibly disrespectful to the sincere people who are following you: “What? You’re dropping me because you’re having time management issues?”

Second, why would I want to miss the benefits of the incredible connections I have nurtured? And finally, the audience build-up is just going to start all over again any way, right?

Another strategy is to stop following people back to contain the level of the noise. That is just not me. I’m not here to “broadcast” like Seth Godin or Guy Kawaskai.  I know the true benefit of Twitter is connection. And that is not just social media rhetoric.  I’m living proof of the amazing benefits of this platform if you approach it in a spirit of authentic helpfulness.

The idea for this post came when I was tossing about in bed feeling guilty for not following through promptly with some Twitter friends who had asked for help. I’m not kidding.

My friend (through Twitter!) Dr. Sidney Eve Matrix described it well during our discussion the other day. “Not connecting on Twitter is like being too tired to walk the dog,” she said. “Will the dog survive? Yes. Will you survive? Yes? But you’re still feel going to feel guilty about it because you’re ignoring a responsibility.”

“Responsibility?”

Yes, responsibility.  In my mind there is definitely a responsibility that comes with having a community on the social web.  It’s an honor that you’re here.  I want to do a good job for you. I want to engage with you, if you want to engage with me. I think acknowledging responsibility to your audience is the difference between being a leader on the social web and being a douchebag on the social web.

This is kind of a strange post and I hope this doesn’t come across as whiney.  I know I have been very blessed by this social media community. But as we continue on this journey together, I felt like I needed to truthfully check in to let you know I’ve crossed an invisible line into some new territory and I haven’t figured out.

Will I be able to keep it up?  No.  Not like before.  I just don’t see how.  This road is taking some new turns and the path ahead is foggy. What do you think?   After all, at some point you might be in this position too.  Perhaps you already are?

Twitter time-savers: Tweet success in just 20 minutes a day

“How much time should I spend on Twitter?” is a question I get asked repeatedly. And last week one person upped the game by asking, “But what if I only have 20 minutes a day?”

OK, I accept the challenge!  Here are my thoughts on being an effective Twitter-er in only 20 minutes a day. I’ve divided this into two categories — 20 minutes a day for beginners and then experienced folks.

The 20-minute challenge for beginners

In a world focused on “engagement” and “conversation” I’m going to give some unconventional advice — Forget about it for a few weeks. If you’re a beginner and can only spend 20 minutes a day on Twitter, concentrate on building a relevant tribe of followers. Two reasons for this:

  • You’ll become disheartened trying to engage with people if there is nobody interesting to engage with and
  • Twitter is simply boring if you’re only following 12 people and you’ll probably quit. Critical mass means following at least 150 active tweeters.

So in the first two months, tweet at least once a day so people see that you’re active, but spend half of your time finding and following interesting people.  Don’t worry if they follow back or not. That will come in time.

In this related post on building influence through Twitter, I’ve listed some easy ways to identify and follow interesting people who are relevant to your business and interests. And if you’re just starting out and need some advice on what to tweet about, here is some help on that topic.

Now for the other half of your time, spend it reading, and occasionally responding to, tweets from your new friends.  This will give you the chance to see what kind of tweets you like, which is instructive when you start tweeting more heavily yourself.  If you’re unfamiliar with the quirky language of Twitter, do a search for one of the many tutorials that are out there. Most people quit in the first two weeks, so hang in there and get help if you need it!

The 20-minute challenge for pros

Let’s face it, if you’re really immersed in Twitter, the challenge is probably how to not spend ALL your time on this addictive little channel!  Once you have surrounded yourself with an interesting tribe, it’s easy to “go down the rabbit hole” and follow link after interesting link.

Now that you have built up a critical mass of followers, it’s time to take advantage of this amazing resource and engage and build meaningful connections.  Here are a few time-saving corner-cutters:

1) Get in the habit of sharing. You’re constantly reading on the Internet any way, right?  It’s so easy to share an article, post or video these days by clicking on that little Twitter “share” icon.  Don’t worry what it’s about. If it’s interesting to you, it will probably be interesting to your Twitter friends, too.  Just be yourself and let your Twitter audience find YOU!

2) If you’re only spending 20 minutes a day, do it at different times of the day so you have the chance to interact with a broader range of people.

3) By now you’re using some kind of an organizing tool like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, right?  It’s an excellent way to improve your efficiency by helping you focus on those who are actively connecting with you.

4) One of the most time-efficient Twitter strategies is to look for opportunities to re-tweet posts. This has two important benefits. First, you’re providing interesting and meaningful content to your followers with little time investment on your part. Second it is a way to connect with somebody and compliment them with a tweet.  And don’t just re-tweet the same people all the time.  When you can, glance through the whole Twitterstream and look for opportunities to connect to new folks.

5) Another great time-saver is using a Twitter app for a smart phone. Use those idle minutes waiting to pick up the kids at school!

Can you keep up with everything going on? No way. Not even if you spent 10 hours a day!  Being effective in 20 minutes a day means knowing how to use these time-saving tips and then having the discipline to prioritize. Here’s what works for me:

  • My first priority is to see who has mentioned me in tweets.  I don’t take that for granted. People are reaching out to me and trying to connect, so I want to engage with them, even if it is a simple “thank you.”
  • Next, I look at direct messages and quickly sift through the spam to make sure I don’t miss something important from a friend.
  • I have my TweetDeck set up with columns with marketing thought leaders, people who are active on my blog, local friends, and other topics.  I scan through each column to see what some of my favorite people are saying and look for opportunities to engage and re-tweet.
  • I’m constantly reading throughout the day and clicking the “tweet button” to share interesting articles. One problem I have is that I tend to share in chunks, so I will be inactive for most of the day and then send a flurry of tweets because I’m in reading mode. That may be annoying to some followers. Of course it is possible to schedule tweets to even things out through various services including HootSuite but that takes a little more time and the idea of “scheduling” tweets seems fake to me. A personal choice.
  • Don’t forget to show you’re human. If you’re in a queue some place, write a quick tweet to let people know what’s going on in your day.

Those are a few of my ideas for saving time and still being an effective citizen of the Twitterverse. What’s working for you? How do you spend your time most efficiently on Twitter?

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